All posts by hannahrank

Hispanic vote surfaces in Illinois primary

By Hannah Rank

Voter turnout in the predominantly Hispanic communities in Chicago and its suburbs appears to be higher in Tuesday’s Illinois primaries than in the past.

The numbers, which are still being analyzed, are consistent with the projections of some experts who anticipated that because immigrant issues have played a significant role in the incendiary Presidential campaign, eligible Latino voters are poised to make an impact this election year. Few experts had made the leap to predict a significant uptick of Hispanics in the primary vote.

“[The Latino community is] getting older in age and more and more people are either born in the U.S. or have been here long enough that they have been able to be citizens,” said Rob Paral, a Chicago-based demographer. “The numbers are there for the Latino vote to be more important than ever.”

The preliminary results of Tuesday’s election seem to affirm Paral’s and others’ analyses.

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Strategists unpack voting blocs key to presidential election

By Hannah Rank

Political strategists grappled Thursday night with the potential outcomes of this surprising presidential election, yet concluded it may be a more conventional race than believed; hopefuls on both sides of the aisle must ultimately engage a growing core of young voters and, most importantly, must engage people of color.

“When you’re young, there are forces in your life that could possibly lead you more to voting Republican,” GOP strategist Stuart Stevens argued. “One thing that’s not going to change: if you’re 19 years old and white or non-white, odds are you’re going to be 45 and white or non-white.”

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosted the event, “On the Campaign Trail: Political Strategy, Millennials, and the 2016 Election,” that featured a panel of strategists, moderated by Dina Smeltz. About 50 people attended the event, organized by the Council’s Young Professionals program. Continue reading

For Puerto Ricans in Chicago, no one’s an island

By Hannah Rank and Rebekah Frumkin

Jose López sits comfortably in his wicker chair as a February blizzard rages on outside, the wall behind him a collage of Puerto Rican literature and artifacts. When it comes to his homeland of Puerto Rico, López has clear ambitions. He wants his countrymen to decide for themselves what their economic future should be, instead of being saddled with an uncontrollable debt they didn’t solely create.

“Puerto Ricans need a constituent assembly where they decide what they want,” López says. “You could have a level of economic investment in Puerto Rico’s future that could allow it to self-actualize as a nation-state.”

But he knows Puerto Ricans ultimately don’t have the power to decide their future – it lies in the hands of the U.S. government.

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Political leaders establish Puerto Rican agenda for 2016 elections

By Hannah Rank

A quiet chatter filled the cafeteria of Aspira Business and Finance High School on Friday night. Loved ones and old friends greeted one another heartily. On a vaulted stage positioned on the other end of the room sat a group of seven chairs lined up in two rows. The chairs began to fill slowly.

First a professor from Hunter College, then two top administrators of the the high school took a seat. Then the 30th ward alderman, Ariel Reboyras, positioned himself in the front right chair. On the other end of the row sat the up-and-coming 35th ward alderman, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who after less than a year in the City Council has already made quite a splash. Finally, State Senator Iris Martinez of the 20th district and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-4th)  entered. Once the elected leaders had settled on the stage, José López, Senior Advisor to the Puerto Rican Agenda, the organization hosting Friday’s event, motioned for the attendees to take their seats.

The crowd had a familiar comfort. But this was no casual get-together; Illinois’ pre-eminent Puerto Rican leaders don’t often gather publicly in the same room. The topic of discussion: Puerto Rico, their “tierra.” It’s in serious debt, and they’ve come to galvanize support and discuss solutions.

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Experts weigh implications of immigration in Chicago and U.S.

By Hannah Rank

Leaders in immigration research argued Friday that immigration has significant economic and demographic benefits for the city of Chicago.

“What I’m seeing from my clients is that they are contributing to society regardless of what their immigration status is,” said Olga Rojas, chair of the Chicago chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers. Rojas added that more than 40 percent of immigrants in Illinois are naturalized.

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Medical marijuana has potential to reduce Puerto Rico’s debt

By Hannah Rank

Puerto Rico is about to welcome medical marijuana to the island.  The action, by executive order, could have potential economic benefits for the debt-ridden country. But it’s also recalling memories  of colonial exploitation.

Drug policy activist Rafael Torruella, who is based in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, worries the budding industry will mirror other industries on the island, where foreign investors reap most of the economic reward.

At this point, no medical marijuana is being grown on the island and no dispensaries have been authorized.

“If somebody’s going to grow it, it shouldn’t be pharmaceutical companies that they’re bringing in from outside,” Torruella, who is the executive director of the harm reduction NGO Intercambios Puerto Rico, said. “We wonder where the money’s going to go.”

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Advocacy groups leverage growing Illinois Hispanic voting bloc

By Hannah Rank

The consistently growing population of Hispanics in Illinois, paired with an unprecedented number of eligible voters, have local activists involved in Hispanic outreach looking for ways to engage this voting bloc.

“This is something we’ve been anticipating for a very long time,” Celina Villanueva, who runs voter engagement programming at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), said of the growing Latino constituency. “This is a voting bloc that really hasn’t flexed its muscles to the full capacity.”

According to the Pew Research Center, there were 708,000 eligible Hispanic voters in Illinois in 2008; for the 2016 election cycle there will be 951,000. That’s 34 percent more eligible voters over an eight-year period, and 44 percent of the total population of Hispanics in the state. The think-tank ranked Illinois the 11th highest state for percentage of Hispanic voters.

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Immigrant mother of deceased veteran fights to keep family together

By Hannah Rank

Olivia Segura remembers it in bits and pieces. The before and after. Everything before hearing the news is clear and chronological. Everything after is hazy and nightmarish.

[Listen to Olivia Segura tell her story below.]

“They asked me if I had any sickness, if my heart was okay,” she recalls. “I knew that something had happened but I never expected that she was going to be dead.”

It was Veterans’ Day in 2007 when Segura heard the news that her daughter, Ashley Sietsema, had died while on active duty in Kuwait. She and her husband Alberto had the day off and were unpacking groceries when the doorbell rang and a military officer was at the door.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Segura says. “I almost passed out.”

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Grassroots organization hosts legal workshops to prevent expected deportations

By Hannah Rank

As families filed into the chilly main auditorium of Pilsen’s Lincoln United Methodist Church last Saturday afternoon, signs reading “Holy Ground,” and “ICE Free Zone” lined the walls next to the pews.

“They’re frightened,” Reverend Emma Lozano, founder of Centro Sin Fronteras, said. “A lot of people didn’t want to come today because they’re frightened to come out because we’re all there and maybe immigration [Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE] will show up.”

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